Built on the River Lee, the people of Cork don’t need to kiss the Blarney Stone for luck when it comes to attracting corporate business.
Quirkiness and the sheer history of the city is what helps attract visitors and business to Cork, Seamus Heaney, chairman of Cork Convention Bureau tells EN.
“It’s true that cities like Dublin are busy and vibrant, but Cork is that good bit smaller and compact. Most hotels, restaurants and facilities are within walking distance, nestled in among the history of Cork.”
Located in the southwest region in the province of Munster, Cork is the second largest city in the state and the third most populous on the Emerald Isle.
From St Fin Barre’s Cathedral to Cork City Gaol, Cork boasts incredible sights and architecturally notable buildings originating from the Medieval to Modern periods, which are increasingly looking to adapt into event spaces.
The picturesque city centre is set on an island in the River Lee, surrounded by curious waterways and packed with grand Georgian avenues and modern masterpieces.
Like Heaney, most Corkonians are proud of their heritage and cheerfully refer to Cork as the ’real capital of Ireland’, as it is currently reinventing itself with liberal, youthful and cosmopolitan streets and revitalised stretches of waterfront. It’s no wonder the city was selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2005.
“Cork is surrounded by market towns and we try and pride ourselves on value for money, especially when compared to the bigger cities and the food revolution.
“Kinsale for example, is a small town all around the outskirts of Cork. It has the most restaurants per square foot of anywhere in Ireland. They’re all quirky little restaurants and give Kinsale the name of the gourmet capital of Ireland.
"There’s Midleton, which is the home of Jameson Whiskey and also the lovely little seaside town of Cobh, the last port of town for Titanic. When it set sail from Southampton, it moved onto Cobh (which at the time was called Queenstown) and it set sail from Cobh. Most of our mass immigration back then took place there.”
Alongside the developing hipster scene, the city is still happily traditional, serving up a genuinely proud welcome from the locals.
With the airport roughly ten minutes away from the city centre and an increasing cluster of hotels and events space opening up, Cork Convention Bureau is anticipating a boost of more than €5m (approx. £4.45m) for Cork and the Irish economy in the second half of 2016.
This will be as a direct result of the conferences and meetings secured to date, where Cork will host in excess of 3,500 delegates within Cork city and county (from July to December 2016).
According to Fâilte Ireland, business tourism is one of the highest yield sectors in tourism, with business tourists and international conference delegates valued at 1,500 up to three times more that of a leisure tourist.
“We continue to have great success in attracting events which are of enormous value to our region economically, but provide extensive benefits to Ireland’s academics, industry and association members in the longer term,” Heaney adds.
“People, businesses and events come to Cork for its quirkiness. It’s all kindly priced, it’s close to the airport and there’s good quality food.
“It’s green living in Ireland and a lot of Corkonians buy from our local artisan producers. Within the centre you have the English Market, you have everything from the cheese maker to the bread makers, and they’re mostly family-run."
Work has commenced on the planned 6,000-seater events centre in Cork with an expected completion date of early 2019. The venue is to be located in the old Beamish and Crawford brewery site in Cork and BAM construction in conjunction with Heineken Ireland.
“Cork is Ireland’s second largest city and in 2015 secured over €10m in MICE business, so it’s only right that we now have a dedicated venue to mirror the ongoing success of the region,” says Evelyn O’Sullivan, manager, Cork Convention Bureau.
A hotel whistle-stop tour
On a cold bright morning in Cork, EN saw The Kingsley Hotel, Hayfield Manor, River Lee Hotel and University College Cork with conference facilities at Aula Maxima, The Western Gateway and DeVere Hall.
We then passed Clayton Silversprings Hotel (under refurbishment) and stopped off at Vienna Woods Hotel (an owner-operated hotel by Michael Magner Proprietor) for refreshments. We went from there to Midleton’s ‘The Jameson Experience’, and drove past the Radisson Blue in Little Island and Rochestown Park, and Maryborough House Hotels in Douglas.
EN walked through the city, passing The Imperial Hotel, Metrolpole, Jurys Inn and The Metropole Hotels all within walking distance of each other. Lunch was had at The Farmgate in the English Market, where Merco the manager of The Farmgate gave a warm welcome.